Section 8 of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2014 requires FOI bodies to prepare and publish a publication scheme in accordance with the Model Publication Scheme. It is aimed at pre-empting the need for FOI requests by requiring public bodies to publish certain information outside of FOI. The Minister is of the view that FOI bodies should publish as much information as possible in an open and accessible manner on a routine basis outside of FOI, having regard to the principles of openness, transparency and accountability in sections 8(5) and 11(3) of the FOI Act.
FOI bodies have six months (from 14 October 2015) to prepare and publish their own publication schemes together with the underlying documentation.
Information contained in the Publication Scheme
The Model Publication Scheme sets out the information to be published by the FOI body, under six headings, including:
- Information about the FOI body (including organisational information, pay/grading structures, locations and contact details)
- Services provided to the Public (including details of functions and services provided and the decision-making process)
- Decision-making process for major policy proposals (including details of any public consultation exercises; reports on operation of services; expenditure reviews, and policy assessments)
- Financial information relating to income and expenditure (including financial statements, payments or purchase orders for goods and services etc.)
- Procurement information (including procurement policies; a link to all current tender competitions on the eTenders website, and public contracts awarded including contract type, contractor, value, etc.)
- FOI Disclosure Log (in relation to non-personal requests) and other information to be published routinely (including information held by the body which is sought regularly, except any information would be exempt under the FOI Act).
Publication Methods and Review
The information published through the scheme should, wherever possible, be available on the FOI body's website or through links to other freely accessible websites.
In addition to publishing the scheme on the FOI body's website, each body must maintain a printed version of the scheme at the body's Head Office, which should be available for a member of the public to view during normal office hours at 24 hours' notice.
Material published under the scheme must be reviewed and, where necessary, revised annually. In the case of procurement, or purchase order spends, the Guidance recommends information to be updated on a quarterly basis.
The Information Commissioner may examine and report in his Annual Report on the extent to which FOI bodies are in compliance with section 8.